VIDEO: The Power of Joy

Leaders must be the type who look at the glass as half-full versus half-empty. Why?

People need to be inspired, and they will only feel inspired if their leader is positively disposed — and joyful.

A leader inclined to be positive is one who looks at challenges as opportunities. A leader inclined to pessimism is one who sees challenges as roadblocks. One way to spread joy is let people know two things. One, you care about the work. Two, you care about them as people. That gives people joy.

Caring about them really means talking about the work, having a meaningful conversation about what they are doing, and how they are contributing. You provide them with resources and support, and you recognize them for success.

That is joyful.

First posted on SmartBrief on 4.15.2016

Dealing With the Spoiled Star Syndrome (HBR)

We do not think of ballplayers as sources of management wisdom but perhaps we should do so occasionally.

Some years ago Jonathan Papelbon, the preternaturally gifted Red Sox closer, gave an interview to Esquire magazine in which he said, “It just takes one guy to bring an entire team down, and that’s exactly what was happening” with Manny Ramirez, the all-star hitter the Sox traded last season. Ramirez was traded for journeyman outfielder Jason Bay. That is fine by Papelbon who said, “Johnny Ballgame (Bay) plays the game right, plays through broken knees, runs out every ground ball — and was like a breath of fresh air, man! Awesome!”

Papelbon is speaking for everyone and anyone who has ever had the misfortune of being on a team with a guy who may pull his weight, but makes such a big deal of the effort that he sucks the energy out of everyone with whom he comes in contact. While his work may be stellar, his ethic is off-kilter, and as a result sends the team helter-skelter.

Managers often find themselves in a dilemma over such performers for one simple reason: superstars produce. They make the numbers, be it in sales, productivity, efficiency and even customer satisfaction. But while they give, they often take away more. To make it worse such superstars often have friends, or patrons, in high places. The higher ups have little interaction with the superstar who is typically unfailingly polite to them and so the higher productivity is all they care about.

So if you are on a team with a spoiled star, what can you do about it? Often not much. There may be a temptation for individuals get together to sabotage the star’s results. That may get the star exposed but it also opens the others to dismissal, too. But there are ways to protect yourself.

Think straight. Know what you can do and what you cannot do. Think about how you will do your job by working around the spoiled star. If you can avoid being in his presence, do so. You will find yourself in plenty of company.

Do your work. Diligence will keep you focused on the task at hand. It will not get you noticed; spoiled stars have a way of sucking up all the credit. In tough times it may be easier to concentrate on considering the alternative.

Focus attention on your team. Collaborate with those with whom you trust. Work with people who believe as you do. Two people working together can sometimes do the work of three people — not because they work harder but because they work smarter, and more efficiently.

Superstars are not all bad. Their productivity can bring results. After all, the Boston Red Sox won two World Series with Manny Ramirez on their squad. There was little finger-pointing when the champagne was uncorked after the game-clinching victories.

Yet in the long run, spoiled stars who not only think, but act as if life is all about them, will kill team spirit. They will ruin harmony and eventually tank productivity. Baseball does have one legendary philosopher, Yogi Berra, who once said — among many things — “In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.” As well the Red Sox know.

First posted on HBR.org 3.26.2009

VIDEO: Be Open to New Ideas

When a leader demonstrates he is open to new ideas, he makes it known that he values others.

One executive I know in health care makes it a practice to keep her door open to anyone in the company. That sets the tone for other executives in the organization.

We all want to be respected by others, but how often do we show respect to others, in particular those who report to us? The more we can answer that question in the affirmative, the more respect we will get in return.

When that happens, people will be happy to share their ideas because they know they have a willing listener.

First posted on Smart Brief 2/19/2016

Use Your EQ to Make Your Team Stronger

IQ gets you hired. EQ gets you promoted.

This HR adage has been around sometime and while certainly valid, it does not address the entire picture when applied to an executive on the rise. Certainly the individual must have smarts, a combination of old-fashioned “book-learnin’” and business acumen. Additionally, the executive must possess the ability to maintain an emotional equilibrium with self and with others.

Truly successful executives must possess more. According to my colleague, Kevin Butler, former chief human resource officer at Delphi, these executives combine two elements in their leadership. They are socially aware; they understand people’s needs, wants and differences. They socially manage; they know how to leverage differences as well as likenesses in order to bring people together for common cause.

Awareness plus management is crucial. It’s one thing to be able to understand people, but, as Kevin points out, you also need to be able to get aligned toward common goals. This requires true leadership.

Understanding people goes beyond knowing their work or even their personal history. It requires the ability to observe dispassionately so that you know how they work best and why. From a management perspective, you put such people into positions where they can excel. Such talents, coupled with skills, makes them a good fit for some jobs but not others. Too often, talented people are put into positions for which they are not suited, and they flounder.

For example, an engineer who loves solving problems individually may not be inclined to seek a management position. He may prefer to work independently — and can work well in teams — but he likes what he does and has no desire to go into management, where he must step back from problem-solving personally so that his direct reports can do the work. An executive with strong social management skills can read the situation, recognize those talents and keep the engineer occupied doing the work he loves doing.

A greater dimension of social management is combining the talents, as well as the differences, of others to get them to coalesce around a common goal. “Leadership,” as Dwight Eisenhower once wrote, “is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” Such leadership requires inspiration. In others words, employees have personal priorities; it is the socially savvy manager who can get them to lay aside differences to work on the project at hand. Even better when a manager can get those individuals to make such work their own personal priority. Such a team is on the way to achieving results that are not simply achieved, but sustained.

The business case for diversity, as Kevin Butler argues, rests upon those leaders who are savvy in social management. Such leaders see opportunity in differences due to gender, ethnicity, age and culture. Not only do these leaders recruit for differences, they manage to them; inclusiveness becomes the practice when assembling teams, developing initiatives, and promoting people into executive positions. Managing in this way does more than create opportunity for others; it maximizes innovation and hence business opportunities. People from diverse backgrounds think and do things differently. Differing perspectives are vital when developing and delivering products and services for a global economy.

Another way of looking at social management is to look back at a principle of our Founding Fathers — E Pluribus Unum. One from many. While our Founders were thinking of independent former Colonies throwing their lot together as a single nation, the same applies to business. Consider this as many different points of view coalescing for a single purpose.

First posted on Smart Brief on 1/08/2016